This week’s Boston Business Journal reported that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (D.O.R.) has begun a pilot mediation program after audits, and for cases in which over $1 million is at issue.
The program takes its inspiration from a similar program in use at the Internal Revenue Service.
The existence of the program, which the D.O.R. Commissioner hopes to expand over time, is intended to bring swifter resolution to taxpayer appeals from the agency’s assessments of arrearages, than the pre-existing route to the state Appellate Tax Board (A.T.B.). Completion of A.T.B. proceedings reportedly takes more than a year, and is costly.
Some people question whether D.O.R. appeals officers, who are being trained to mediate, can have sufficient independence to provide effective impartial service as mediators. But, the pilot project, whatever its drawbacks, is the dawning of recognition in yet another area of law, that the government and citizens alike need an efficient and cost-effective forum in which to resolve the bulk of cases that can be mediated to settlement: fairly, expeditiously and voluntarily.